Monday, January 24, 2011

Hope for the Future By Beverly Creasey

How do you attract younger audiences? Theater won’t thrive without them. Turtle Lane Playhouse is one theater doing something about the “aging audience” problem. Their production of RENT brought in twenty- and thirty-somethings and this weekend and next (through Jan. 29th) TLP is hosting a YOUNG ACTORS’ WINTER FESTIVAL to showcase talented high school (and younger) performers.

Most of the plays are the ten minute variety by local (adult) playwrights, with live music nestled in between. The comedies fare best with Sean Clarke’s Double Date, George Sauer’s League of the Unexpected and Maggie Bandur’s Tea & Sorcery leading the pack. (The serious plays seem to rely on lurid headlines for their subject matter, I’m afraid.)

Clarke’s hip send-up of multiple personality phenomenon stars a dynamo named Gillian Gordon as the fractured femme who’s dating Paul Kmiec and Patrick Maloney at the very same time…on the same date! Kmiec and Maloney also play the non-conformists in Sauer’s cheeky League, giving shock and awe new meaning. (James Tallach directed both plays and a few more…in addition to co-founding the event with Regina Ramsey and acting the villain in Ramsey’s In the Woods.)

Lisa Burdick gets astonishing performances from her very young actors in Bandur’s clever Tea & Sorcery. Madeline Rocklin, Rosa Stern Pait and Elizabeth Wu are middle school students whose tea party held us in thrall, spellbound! (My fears about the future of theater were quelled by these three pros.)

Maggie Whitlock sang and accompanied herself on guitar between the plays in Program I, introducing her winsome original song, “I Found You.” Then she and Paul Kmiec collaborated on the “Moonbeam” song from the movie ONCE. Whitlock has an easy style and a lovely, plaintive quality to her voice, especially evident in sad laments like “Cover It Up.”

In Program II, Chris Bailly manned the keyboard for a medley of smart original songs by Janine deSouza, sung by Jackie Theoharis (who also plays Cinderella in Teresa Fisher’s Sweet Dreams). Theoharis delivers deSouza’s post-feminist “No More,” her catchy “Just a Kid (in the big city)” and ends the program with her rousing anthem, “The Truth Will Prevail.”